Some venue managers in San Diego had a much easier time verifying a fake charity wasn’t real than others, Voice of San Diego has learned.
Officials at Sports Arena – which is now technically named Pechanga Arena – ejected Chula Vista Fast Pitch back in 2015. The group is a phantom charity that raked in money at Petco Park for nine years.
Sports Arena managers ejected the group for a simple reason: because it was so easy to verify it wasn’t in fact a charitable organization, people familiar with the situation said.
In venues and stadiums throughout the country, including many in San Diego, charities provide volunteers to staff concession stands. In return, the charities get to keep roughly 10 percent of a given stand’s revenue.
But last week, Voice revealed that the biggest group operating in Petco Park, Chula Vista Fast Pitch, wasn’t a real charity. The group was taking in potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to receipts obtained by Voice. It was also providing staffing at Snapdragon Stadium.
Officials at Petco and Snapdragon banned the group from those stadiums, after learning of Voice’s reporting.
In Sports Arena, however, the group faced a tougher verification process than at Petco and Snapdragon.
Around 2015, a company called Levy managed concessions at Sports Arena. Levy managers checked out Chula Vista Fast Pitch’s nonprofit paperwork and realized the group wasn’t a real charity. They quickly ejected the group, people familiar with the matter said.
Levy officials confirmed what the sources told me.
“We’ve reviewed to the best of our ability, and what you shared from 8 years ago regarding this group appears to be accurate,” wrote a spokesperson for Levy in an email.
Verifying Chula Vista Fast Pitch isn’t a real charity wasn’t difficult. Such a charity was founded in 2008, but easily-accessible state and federal documents show it shut down in 2014. That charity was founded by Jackson Wyatt and his wife, who are still both involved in local softball. Wyatt previously told me he had no idea anyone was still using the name.
Soon after the original charity shut down, a nonprofit called “C V Fast Patch,” was incorporated with the state. Its address was listed at a home owned by Martin Rebollo, according to property records.
Rebollo and Noly Ilarde run the group that was operating at the three stadiums as Chula Vista Fast Pitch, according to people familiar with the situation. Rebollo and Ilarde previously told me they are managers for the group, but not in charge.
By 2018, the Internal Revenue Service had shut down “C V Fast Patch,” because it hadn’t filed taxes for three years.
Multiple similarly-named entities are registered to Rebollo or his address including one that was created the day after Voice’s initial story ran.
Rebollo didn’t respond to a request for comment, regarding the events at Sports Arena.
I previously talked to Ilarde briefly at Petco. I left a note with directions on how to contact me, but never heard back.
How it works at Petco and Snapdragon
Groups at Snapdragon simply sign a statement attesting to their nonprofit status, a spokeswoman for San Diego State University – which owns Snapdragon – previously confirmed.
Aztec Shops, an SDSU entity that runs concessions at Snapdragon, is reviewing its procedure for verifying charities, following Voice’s story.
At Petco, a global hospitality company called Delaware North manages concessions.
Delaware North does collect certain paperwork from the nonprofits that operate at Petco, according to emails obtained by Voice. None of that paperwork on its own would confirm whether a charity was up-to-date or not.
A person would have to plug that information into various state and federal search tools to verify a charity is current.
A spokesperson for the Padres previously told me Delaware North is also reviewing its practices.